Dawning of the age of Zeph

By KatherineGamby

Most graphic artists are usually known for being good at manipulation. This is a statement that does not apply to Zeph Farmby, a 30-year-old Chicagoan who can do anything from painting murals to designing logos.

Farmby said he first gained direction with his artwork when he was 12 or 13 years old during his graffiti tagging years. Throughout high school, he began to do permission walls, which is when a store location will sponsor an artist’s work to be drawn or painted on the side of its building. In high school, he also took advanced art classes, won competitions and had his artwork featured in newspapers in Illinois and several neighboring states.

“I only had two choices, that’s how I looked at it,” Farmby said. “I was either going to go forward with a career in sports or I’m going to do art—and sports didn’t happen.”

After graduating from Percy L. Julian High School, Farmby attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago. In 2001, he started I Amaze Eyez Studios. Since the start of his business, Farmby has gained national and international cliental, including Fashion Geek Clothing, Sneaker Fiend Tees and Original Afro Wear. He said half of his work is graphic design, which he said is  because he did not care for it before.

“The weird thing about that is when I was in school, I really didn’t like graphic design work,” Farmby said. “I was so much of an artist that if I wasn’t drawing it, then it’s not going to look right.”

He said he enjoys painting more, but graphic designers are in higher demand. Farmby said he charges $450 for something like a logo and $10,000 or more for a mural, but his prices depend on the project.

“Doing a painting, it’s not like I have to cater to anyone but myself, there’s more freedom and you get more of an expression with painting—well for me anyway,” Farmby said.

Because he is still very connected to his roots in painting,  Farmby takes advantage of appearing in art shows across the country. Regardless of what type of design his clients prefer, Farmby said that the important part of his job is being knowledgeable of the type of people his clients are.

“Getting to know the person is really the main thing,” Farmby said. “I wouldn’t want to give them a design that’s totally opposite of their personality because their personality is what’s going to reflect in their company.”

In the future, Farmby said his company will include many different aspects of art and design. He said he also wants to be more involved in the youth community and become a youth mentor.

“It’s going to be a big mixing pot,” Farmby said. “It’s more graphic design, more murals, more graffiti workshops that I’m doing, speaking engagements and teaching some of the younger students.”

Sneaker Fiend Tees is an international street wear brand that Farmby supplies designs for every other month. It was his multifaceted skills that made him stand out to the brand.

“It was his versatility, in terms of not only can he do graffiti, but he can do graphic design, he can actually paint, draw and sketch,” said Darrick Carruth, owner of Sneaker Fiend Tees. “A lot of times when you meet a graphic artist, he’s only good at manipulation.”

Farmby and Carruth, after being introduced through a mutual friend, began their business relationship about nine years ago when Farmby was in college and Carruth had another brand called Too Much Game.

“When I met him he was doing more realism, but his roots were actually in graffiti and once he embraced that, I think that’s when he found his voice as an artist,” Carruth said.

Carruth said that he has seen Farmby’s progression as an artist through the years and as the brand expands, Farmby remains a valuable asset to the company.

“He’s the primary artist.  My thing is if it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it,” Carruth said. “As long as my consumers are responding to the work we are doing together, I don’t see a reason to go anywhere else.”

King Lizzy Apparel is another clothing line that Farmby has worked with.

“Anyone who sees his work knows the quality of [it],” said Rowan Richards, founder of King Lizzy Apparel. “His graphic designs, I feel like they just come to life, it’s like they jump right off the shirt or canvas. He’s got a style and a level of talent that I think sets him above a lot of other artists.”

Richards also met Farmby through a mutual friend a year ago, when he was looking for some design  work for King Lizzy Apparel. He said that he has created 10-12 different designs and Farmby has done almost all of the imagery. Richards also owns one of Farmby’s paintings that he purchased at an art show.

“All of his artwork is pretty intricate,” Richards said. “[I was in] love with the piece that I bought … his style mixes well with my taste.”

On a personal level, Richards said he is satisfied with the person Farmby is and that satisfaction grows the more they become acquainted.

“He’s really willing to work with you, he’s got time for you [and] he’ll listen to exactly what you want … he shares a lot of his talent with the classroom kind of on the mentor side. He impresses me as an individual,” Richards said.

Farmby will speak at an engagement hosted by Western Michigan University on Dec. 4. For more information on Zeph Farmby as well as his art and design work and  upcoming appearances, visit I-Amaze-Eyez.com.